Nebraska Basketball Press Conference

By NU Athletic Communications

Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson met with the media this afternoon to discuss the future of the Nebraska men’s basketball program. His opening comments are below:

As you are all aware, Barry has decided to take a position at his alma mater. We wish him the very best in this new career.

Marc and I have just finished meeting with all of the current players and the assistant coaches. They are all terrific people, and they are our first priority.

We have been in contact with the players and the assistants consistently throughout the past five days to keep them informed on what we knew. We appreciate their patience during an unusual time. We will continue to keep them informed as we move forward.
The University of Nebraska basketball job can and will be a great basketball position in college athletics.  I believe that, Marc Boehm believes that, our staff believes that, and now we must find a coach who also believes that.

The Big 12 Conference is one of the very best basketball conferences in the country and success in this conference will lead to success nationally. As an administration, we believe that Nebraska can be a consistent NCAA team and play with the top teams in this conference on a consistent basis.  It is going to take a lot of work and a leader that has a focused belief that Nebraska can be great.

We do not accept the public perception in some circles that our lack of success over the years in basketball is indicative of what Nebraska is capable of achieving.  This is a great university with great athletic history and success, and we believe that Nebraska can be as great as we all desire.  There are several examples of crucial points in Nebraska athletics history where our programs have made decisive moves to become great.  It has taken a coach who believed that special things can happen.

In 1962, Bob Devaney came to Nebraska with a focused vision of what he wanted Nebraska football to become.  Few believed that Nebraska could achieve national championships in football.  What was important was that Coach Devaney believed he could win championships.  And then he simply went out and did it.  Then, Coach Devaney had the courage to hire a successor that he believed could take the program to greater heights.  That was his ultimate confidence, vision, and belief for success at Nebraska and it flowed to other sports as well.

Terry Pettit came to Nebraska with a goal of building a volleyball program that was the envy of the country.  We watched Terry move with a single minded focus on building a great program.  Volleyball success in Nebraska is not logical, but don’t tell Terry Pettit or John Cook that.

Gary Pepin came to Nebraska with the goal of establishing Nebraska track and field among the elite in the country.  Track and field in the north is an illogical success story.  Sixty-three conference championships and three national championships later; aren’t we all glad that Gary has stayed focused on the goals of making Nebraska great.
Nebraska baseball had firmly entrenched itself in the lower tier of the conference.  Despite some great individual players, there was little hope and little interest in the program.  That was until a guy named Dave Van Horn arrived in Lincoln and dreamed that Nebraska could win the Big 12 and play in the College World Series.  Three College World Series appearances later, aren’t we glad that Dave and Mike Anderson dreamed big and believed.

Last year, as we intently worked at rebuilding our football program, we moved toward a postseason bowl appearance.  Coach Callahan and I talked about every possible postseason scenario.  His focus was simple; he wanted to play in a game where we could play the very best opponent possible.  Most coaches in that situation would be looking for a game where they could most easily win, that was not his focus.  If you remember his first press conference, he stated clearly that he came to Nebraska to win a national championship and reestablish our place at the top of the Big 12.  Coach Callahan is believing like the other great coaches who have been at Nebraska.

Why do we say all this? Because Nebraska basketball is in exactly the same position.  We will find a leader who will believe that there are no obstacles to our success.  Will this success happen over night?  No it will not.  Will it happen? absolutely!
What makes Nebraska special is that if you give someone an opportunity to dream of achieving great things and you support their goals with your head and your heart, great things will surely happen.  We want a coach who will come to Nebraska with the dreams and aspirations that previous coaches have had for their sports.  What they need from all of us who love Nebraska is passionate support for their high goals.  They will have that support.

A coach has three main responsibilities.  First to recruit.  Second to coach.  Third to run their program.  A successful coach needs to be able to do all three.  We also expect our coaches to run their programs with the highest degree of integrity and to see that their student-athletes graduate from the University of Nebraska.  Those ingredients combined, will pack the Bob Devaney Sports Center and create excitement for Nebraska basketball throughout our great state.

Let us outline the process we will go through to select a new men’s basketball coach.  We have already begun the process of identifying the very best candidates for the University of Nebraska.  We will use every possible resource available to find the right person.  We will most likely enlist the help of a firm that specializes in athletic related searches to help with the process.  I will lead the search, assisted by Marc Boehm, and we will keep Chancellor Perlman fully informed on the progress of the search.  Ultimately, Chancellor Perlman will interview the finalists and we will make our recommendation to him for our next coach. 

We will be talking with basketball people both on the college and professional levels. We will speak with former players, media members, and experts in basketball to get as much information as possible about potential candidates.  We will do much of this work prior to ever contacting a coach about the position.

There are 334 Division I basketball playing schools and we want to be very thorough.  The use of a search firm’s help will not be to select the coach, but to help us screen candidates, run background checks, academic checks, and sort through the contenders from the pretenders.  The cases of agents using job openings to further promote their clients’ standing on their own campus is becoming more commonplace.  We will be aggressive dealing with anyone who pretends to use this opening for leverage for their clients.  While our plan is to be as open as possible about the search and to keep our media and fans updated as much as is possible, we will not be able to attract top candidates if we do not respect their confidentiality.  We hope you can understand that and together we can make this transition great for the new coach.

We would also note that talking with a coach does not mean that we are offering them a job.  We plan to do a lot of talking with people to determine the right fit.  It may be that after discussions we will decide it is not the right fit, or that after talking, the coach will determine that it is not the right fit.

This is an exciting time and one that Marc and I have been through successfully before.  We have both hired men’s basketball coaches who last year had their teams ranked in the top 10 in the country, one playing for the national championship.  Neither of those were hurry-up hires; they were focused, detailed searches that led to the right person.  This process will take as long as needed to find the right person.

The timing of this opening is unusual.  We hope top candidates will be available to move.  If the timing becomes a road block, we will look at possible interim solutions.  However, that is not our first priority.

We believe that Nebraska is one of the great coaching jobs in the country.  You will remember when we hired Marc Boehm to come to Nebraska that it was another show of support to emphasize basketball in Nebraska.  It is one thing to say you want to be successful; it is another to make the commitment to achieve at the highest levels.  This is the next great step for Nebraska athletics and we are excited to move forward.

We would also say that we prefer not to address individual candidates for this job, however, we have a unique situation in Nebraska.  I am a Dana Altman fan.  We have admiration for what he has built at Creighton and the success he has had.  A little over a year ago when he was being talked about for other jobs, I called and told him that I hoped he would stay at Creighton.  He is good for Omaha, good for Nebraska, good for Creighton and we did not want to see fine people leave our state.  There has already been some national media speculation about Coach Altman.  That discussion serves no good purpose for either school.  We have said before that it will be a great day when Nebraska wins the Big 12, Creighton wins the Missouri Valley, and we are both headed to the NCAA Tournament.


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